Christie's lame-duck wish list includes Amazon tax credits
Michael Catalini, Associated Press | 12/11/2017, 7 a.m.
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in the twilight of his two terms as one of the country's most powerful governors and he's hopeful he can still enact up to $5 billion in tax credits to attract Amazon's second headquarters, a measure aimed at keeping property taxes low and criminal justice changes.
The criminal justice measures, specifically loosening laws on expunging criminal records, have just recently reached his desk.
But the other items on his wish list might not make it that far, with members of the Democrat-led Legislature hinting they're tapping the brakes on Amazon's tax credits and renewing an expiring law that caps what police and firefighters can get when labor contracts go into arbitration.
That said, lame-duck legislatures have earned a reputation as periods when deals get made.
A closer look at what Christie, a Republican, said he wants to achieve before leaving office.
EXPUNGING CRIMINAL RECORDS
Christie said during a news conference that he expects to sign legislation negotiated with Democratic state Sen. Sandra Cunningham to ease restrictions facing residents seeking to have criminal records expunged.
Specifically, the legislation sent to his desk on Thursday includes three bills. One would bar employers from inquiring whether prospective employees have had their criminal records expunged and another would increase the number of convictions that could be expunged.
A third measure reduces from five to three years how long juvenile offenders must wait before seeking to expunge records.
"I think it's another important step for criminal justice reform," Christie said during the news conference. He is expected to sign the legislation.
AMAZON TAX CREDITS
Christie also said he expects lawmakers to send him legislation authorizing up to $5 billion in tax credits to lure Amazon's second headquarters to New Jersey. But it looks as if that could be on hold.
Christie and both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders are committed to granting Amazon up to $5 billion in tax credits to attract its second headquarters. But Senate President Steve Sweeney said the issue won't get taken up during the lame duck session unless Amazon signals an intention to come to the state. The administration has picked Newark as its standard-bearer to host the project. Other cities in the state, including Camden, say they want to host the headquarters as well.
Amazon says it's not expected to make any announcements until the new year. Christie leaves office Jan. 16.
Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has said he supports Amazon bringing its estimated 50,000 jobs to New Jersey, but stopped short of backing the tax credits explicitly.
POLICE AND FIRE SALARIES
Christie says he also wants to renew the so-called interest arbitration cap that goes back to 2010 and was renewed in 2014. The measure caps at 2 percent the amount police and fire officials can be awarded when their labor contracts are in dispute. It expires at the end of the year.
Christie casts the law as a major factor in keeping property taxes, which are the highest in the county, down. He has said state data show that the police and fire salary cap has saved taxpayers $530 million.
The Democratic leaders of the Legislature say they want to wait for Murphy to decide how to proceed. Murphy says he won't decide until a bipartisan report from a commission studying the cap comes out in December. The GOP-appointed members of that commission released the report over Democrat-picked panelists' objections in September. The preliminary document concluded that the cap was a success, but Murphy says it's not complete.
Democratic-appointed members of the commission tasked with writing the report have said it seems unlikely that the report is forthcoming. Without action, the cap expires. -- (AP)